EOS takes seriously its contributions to societal well-being and the economy. We are innovators in exploring for a broad spectrum of resources including minerals and hydrocarbons from the solid Earth, and drugs derived from the Oceans. British Columbia is a mountainous, seismically active terrain subject to volcanic activity, mass wasting and extreme weather conditions. We must also be aware of the environmental pressures that result from resource exploitation and a steadily increasing population. The Province looks to its premier University as a source of scientific information and engineering expertise relevant to all these phenomena but we will also continue to apply our research results on a global scale. We are proud of our close relationships with industry and the important Industry-University research consortia that we have fostered.
Resources. Global consumption of ores is overtaking supply and we can only add to the inventory by using increasingly sophisticated approaches to exploration. We must rely upon accurate ore deposit models, a better understanding of the geological processes that form deposits and the use of new remote sensing and geochemical techniques to locate deep-seated reserves. We are developing genetic models on scales ranging from individual deposits to entire orogenic belts. Hydrothermal systems and mafic magmas are being investigated to better understand the mobility and deposition of Au, Ag, Ni, Cu, PGE and other metals. We are using mineralogy, crystal chemistry and seismic techniques to develop exploration strategies for diamonds, emeralds and other precious gems. Our geophysical inversion codes set the standard for the mineral sector and they are also making major contributions to the location and discrimination of land mines and other unexploded ordnance.
The exploration for and development of natural gas resources is an important element of research in EOS. We are also developing geophysical techniques to analyse data with poor signal to noise ratios so that we can better delineate stratigraphy and measure the abruptness of unconformities at depth. At the present time, seismic reflection data recorded in west central British Columbia as part of the LITHOPROBE project are being used as a guide for future petroleum exploration in the Bowser Basin. It is our intention to hire an applied stratigrapher-sedimentologist to position us better for potential off-shore hydrocarbon exploration.
EOS is involved in bioprospecting for drugs from the Ocean and, to date, new drugs for treating asthma and cancer have progressed to clinical trials in humans. As part of our program, UBC has been the first organization to return revenues to the country of origin of the organisms that were the source of compounds. This handling of financial returns is widely cited as a model of how ethical bioprospecting should be conducted by institutes and companies worldwide.
Hazards. We are attempting to understand the deep seismicity associated with subducting plates. These earthquakes pose a threat to major population centres in the Pacific Northwest. We have made substantial progress in relating seismic structural variations to specific metamorphic reactions in the downgoing plate and mantle wedge. In other parts of the world we are using GPS receivers deployed around major fault zones to record interseismic deformation with the aim of developing models showing how this deformation loads earthquake faults.
Our university is situated within the Canadian portion of the Cascade volcanic arc. As in many convergent margin settings, we live on a landscape that features large stratovolcanoes situated in regions of extreme topographic relief. Such landscapes represent one of the most hazardous and, potentially, high risk natural environments on the planet. This is because of the intimate interplay between volcanism and mass wasting events. Rock falls and avalanches of cold bedrock are also common in these landscapes and we are combining numerical modelling and innovative geotechnical field measurements in order to understand these natural hazards. The same techniques are applied to engineered rock slopes (e.g. open pit mine slopes), as well as to tunnelling, mining and nuclear waste disposal.
Our Geophysical Disasters Centre studies weather-related and other natural disasters, with an ultimate goal of enhancing the Canadian economy and saving lives. A high-performance computer is used to solve fluid flow equations describing weather, avalanches, forest fires, earthquakes and other natural phenomena.
Environmental Quality. Studies are underway to better quantify the
linkages between hydrology and geochemistry with the aims of understanding,
for example, the release of metals and acidity from mine waste, the reason
for elevated arsenic levels in deltas, the fate of crude oil spills, and
the quality of aquifers. Using numerical modelling and isotope geochemistry,
we are also studying the sources of emissions causing pollution around smelters,
along freeways, and in the air.
(* - more than 25; ** - more than 50; *** more than 100 citations.)
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